Firefighters got a slight break from battling blazes this winter thanks to the warmer-than-average temperatures, but, officials say, if the warm streak continues, summer fires might increase.
From November to February, the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department saw a 31 percent drop in the number of fires compared with the previous year.
Fire officials said the mild winter weather can take the credit.
“Part of the reason is people were not having to stay warm,” Interim Deputy Fire Chief Richard Burts said.
Typically, fires increase in the wintertime because of improper heating techniques, Fire Chief Chris James said. Every year, firefighters also respond to fires set in vacant structures by homeless people trying to stay warm.
Burts said the department did not have an estimate of how much money the department saved because of the drop in fires this winter.
Some months saw an average high temperature that was more than 10 degrees above the average highs from the previous winter.
According to a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this was the fourth warmest winter on record for the United States. It was also considered drier than average.
January was the fourth warmest January on record, and February was the 17th warmest.
Spring will officially begin Tuesday, but meteorologists said they’re already anticipating the warmest spring since 2004, according to an AccuWeather report.
Meteorologists at the National Weather Service said the trend of above-normal temperatures and drier-than-normal weather is expected to continue through the summer.
If the warming trend does continue, James said firefighters can expect an increase in calls.
“If it gets hot earlier, which gives us an extended summertime, then we will see an increase in brush and wood fires,” he said.
James recommends that people use caution when burning outside. He said that often residents expect they can put out a fire before it gets out of hand; however, they usually underestimate how fast fire travels.